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Rugby player sanctioned for cannabis

8 Aug 2023

One-month ban

Metal scales representing justice.

The New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee has banned rugby player Isaia Walker-Leawere from all sport for one month for the presence and use of THC, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Mr Walker-Leawere tested positive for cannabis after an in-competition test administered after a Super Rugby match in May 2023. Mr Walker-Leawere has entered into a treatment programme to address his substance use.

Cannabis is banned in sport under the Substances of Abuse category, which acknowledges that some substances are abused outside of sport. Provisions for such substances allow athletes to balance a reduced ban with completion of a substance treatment programme. As such, Mr Walker-Leawere incurred a one-month suspension, which was backdated to 5 July 2023 and ended 5 August 2023, on the condition that he will complete his Substance of Abuse treatment programme. If he does not complete the programme, a ban of three months will apply.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand Chief Executive Nick Paterson supports this athlete-centred approach.

“We don’t believe that cannabis is performance-enhancing. Getting Mr Walker-Leawere Substance of Abuse support and back into sport after serving his sanction is the most practical outcome and supports long term athlete health and wellbeing.

“We’ve advocated to remove cannabis from the Prohibited List for over 15 years and will continue to do so. However, while cannabis remains on the Prohibited List, the best approach to avoiding a positive test is to avoid using it.”

Read the NZ Rugby Judicial Committee decision